Testimony of Deborah Grill to the BOE, November 21, 2019

I urge you to vote no on Action Item 7, the extension of the contract with Attuned Partners.
Attuned appears to be the poster child for corporate ed reform. According to their website, most of Attuned’s 10 partners have had more than a little experience in charter schools. Three have had extensive experience in the No-Excuses charters, Uncommon Schools and KIPP. Four are TFA alumni with varying degrees of classroom experience. One spent time employed by McKinsey & Company and Morgan Stanley, two institutions not particularly noted for their expertise in education. One partner is connected to Relay Graduate School of Education which is unaccredited in Pennsylvania. One is and alumnus of the Broad Academy. Two have experience in Denver and D.C.—public school districts that are noted for their embrace of corporate ed practices. Five, including Ms. Smith, who will be working on Dr. Hite’s Action Plan, claimed to have overseen outstanding gains in proficiency in state assessments in their schools and districts although Attuned Partners’ website offers not real data to support those assertions— no footnotes or links, no real numbers.

The corporate reform agenda has begun to fall out of favor. Denver, the public school district that Ms. Smith worked in, has been held as an example of how well the ed-reform portfolio model works. At one point, in 2011, our Mayor, the Chair of the SRC, and District staff flew out to Denver to observe this success. However, according to the recent School Board election results, it appears the people of Denver are no longer feeling the love for the portfolio model. They recently elected three board members who oppose the corporate reform agenda thus flipping the majority’s leaning. They have finally realized that this model doesn’t work to strengthen public education.

Attuned Partners aside, the District’s admission in the item description that it does not have personnel with the require expertise and the available capacity to refine the K-3 framework of the Action Plan is the most disturbing aspect of this contract. Although, it is not surprising, since destabilizing the District by gutting it of expertise and outsourcing District functions has been the routine since the state takeover. The Board needs to abandon this habit and commit to undoing the damage wrought by the SRC and its corporate ed reforms. You need to concentrate on investing District funds to build a stable body of employees with not only the the expertise to make long range educational plans, but also with the familiarity with the District and its students and the determination to stay long enough to see those plans succeed.